Several Bills Introduced of Interest to Women-Owned Businesses – 1/19/16

Provided by Janet Kopenhaver, USWCC | Washington Representative

There have been several bills introduced in both congressional chambers that would be of interest to USWCC members and women-owned businesses. The first was introduced by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee – Steve Chabot (R-1-OH) and Nydia Velazqez (D-7-NY), respectively and it amends the Small Business Act to improve transparency and clarity for small businesses and to increase opportunities for them in competing for federal contracts. This bill has already been marked up and approved by the Committee and has been sent to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

During his opening remarks at the mark-up, Chairman Chabot stated, “As a Committee, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that federal contracts are awarded appropriately to small businesses in order to maximize competition, create jobs and foster innovation. This bipartisan, common-sense legislation increases small business participation in federal contracting projects.” Velazquez commented that the goal of the Committee is to “ensure that small businesses are included in the government supply chain and that they can win contracting awards.” She added that “small business contracting goals are skewed and that current contracting practices make it harder for small businesses to get these contracts. This bipartisan legislation will make it easier for them to contract with the federal government and it is Congress’ role to ensure that small businesses can effectively contract with the government.”

Specifically the overall measure modernizes the Act to ensure the language in it is in plain language and consistent across federal procurement programs. It also strengthens the role of small business advocates with the Small Business Administration (SBA) so that they can better assist small businesses and improves opportunities for small businesses to compete for subcontracts and position themselves to compete as prime contractors. Finally it includes provisions to improve coordination and data sharing between SBA’s mentor-protégé programs government-wide.

The Committee did consider several amendments during the mark-up including one introduced by Rep. Mark Takai (D-1-H) which would expand resources and technical assistance to mentor-protégé firm programs, especially to help Women Business Centers get the specialized assistance they need to best help these firms. Another amendment, introduced by Rep. Janice Hahn (D-44-CA), mandates that “task order” contracts, which are currently not included in the 23% small contracting goal, be added to small business procurement requirements. Both were approved unanimously. Read the bill in its entirety.

Another measure, which was introduced by the Senate Small Business Committee Chairman David Vitter (R-LA), would improve the review and acceptance of subcontracting plans. Entitled the “Small Business Subcontracting Transparency Act of 2015” (S. 2138), the measure has been approved by the Senate Small Business Committee and was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

The bill would allow procurement center representatives or commercial market representatives to delay acceptance of a subcontracting plan for 30 days if it fails to provide the maximum practicable opportunity for covered small business concerns to participate in the performance of the contract to which the plan applies. Department of Defense plans may be delayed for only 15 days. However, plans may not be delayed if the head of the contracting agency certifies that the need of the agency is of compelling urgency.

The measure also requires that not less than 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the SBA Administrator shall issue regulations providing examples of activities that would be considered a failure to make a good faith effort to comply with the requirements imposed on an entity other than a small business concern. More information about the Vitter Bill.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), along with Chairman Vitter and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced a bill that would reauthorize the women’s business center program of the SBA. The “Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015” (S. 2126) would reauthorize the program whose mission is to “assist women’s entrepreneurs to start, grow and compete in global markets by providing quality support with access to capital, access to markets, job creation, growth and counseling and training." The bill also requires the Administrator to provide annual programmatic and financial examination training for women business center representatives to better enable these representatives to carry out their responsibilities. They will be trained on the managing, financing and operation of small business concerns; marketing, including the use of social media; management and technology assistance regarding international markets and export promotion; and delivery or distribution of services. The legislation would also require the Administrator to create an accreditation program of these centers.

Also included in the bill is language providing for financial assistance to an eligible entity to conduct a project that is designed to provide training and counseling that meets the needs of women. Funding shall not exceed more than $250,000 a year. This measure was also approved by the Senate Small Business Committee and has been sent to the Senate floor for consideration. Read the bill.

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